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Here I come, rest of the week



I travel to U.C. Davis this week once again for my old friend, Rusty Eddy, with his winery P.R class. He’s done this for years, and it’s always great fun.

This year, for the first time, the class spans over two days, Thursday and Friday. Friday, when I won’t be there, is devoted to what Rusty calls implementation. This is where the rubber hits the road. Instead of just telling these students what to do, Friday’s session will instruct them in the nuts and bolts of how to do it. I don’t know about you, but I myself need hands-on guidance when it comes to learning how to do stuff. For example, I’m getting better at recording on my new Yamaha P155 digital piano, but I find the manual useless. I need someone who knows his way around that piano to stand right next to me and tell me exactly what to do.

I won’t be there for the Friday class, but I’m sure that Paul Mabray wishes I was. : >  Last year, we were both there on the same day, and some people were billing it as some kind of mixed martial arts smackdown: Ladeez and Gents: Step right up this way to see the most sensational, knock-down, drag-out battle in the history of social media-dumb. In this corner, the old dinosaur, who’s been around for a long time but still has a few tricks up his sleeve. In this corner the new pheenom, who came out of nowhere and is anxious to kick butt. Place your bets, ladeez and gents!

Well, of course that’s not how it was last year. Although there were some tense moments, overall it was a respectful exchange of ideas. Paul was frustrated that I tend to question some of his basic premises having to do with the efficacy of social media for wineries. And so the energy level in the room rose to a certain level, but it was nothing that grownups can’t handle.

But this year, no Paul and Steve in the same room! Instead, my co-panelists are Virginie Boone, my wonderful “other half” here in California for Wine Enthusiast, whom Rusty is also billing for her roles at the Santa Rosa Press Democrat and the new Sonoma Magazine (what a great portfolio); and someone I don’t know, Steve Boone, of O’Donnell Lane, which calls itself a lifestyle company specializing in strategic planning, marketing and communications for the wine industry. As someone who has some skepticism about consultants like that (their job, after all, is to persuade potential customers that they, the consultants, have something the potential customer desperately needs, which may or may not be true), I’m all ears to hear Steve’s presentation.

My own presentation will be to describe the world of winery P.R. into which these Davis students are entering as realistically as possible. As someone on the receiving end of countless pitches, I feel I have some insight into what works and what doesn’t. Of course, that’s just me. A pitch that bores me might turn someone else on. On the other hand, it does seem to me that it would be pretty valuable for someone to successfully pitch me for a spot in the magazine, since that is very expensive real estate. An article, even a small one, in Wine Enthusiast will bring a winery vaster coverage than a hundred blogs ever could.

I do plan on taking a few minutes at the end of my presentation to tell the students my views on social media: the good, the bad and the ugly. As some of you may know, I routinely come under some pretty fierce attack on twitter and in blogs for failing to be a 100% card-carrying social mediaist. Sometimes these attacks are pretty ad hominem–you know, when you can’t debate someone’s points, then attack their personality. Alder Yarrow the other day–a fellow I’ve always tried to be nice to–called me a Chihuahua. Now, I am not offended. My family is not offended. But Gus, who is part Chihuahua, has taken this hard.

Alder’s rather sad remark shows how the conversation about the value of social media can really deteriorate into childish name calling, when its proponents lose their moorings and hit that “send” button before they’ve had a chance to sober up and be reflective. Alder claims to be “infuriated” by the questions I ask about social media. I wonder why. That’s such an extreme, irrational emotion. Infuriated? I mean, really…the Taliban gets infuriated. Adult Americans don’t. And Alder’s not the only one. Maybe someday someone will explain to me why these social mediaists have so much personal pathology bound up in it, and why they can’t tolerate even well-meaning, constructive criticism from a simple, likeable guy like me.

  1. Steve, sounds like a fun week. Since you went there AGAIN, I can not resist a comment on your susceptibility to attacks on your curious posture about the value of social media. Also, I want to turn the tables a bit.

    A continuing reason to your susceptibility to harsh criticism is that your public questions won’t go away. As you know, I run a social media and content marketing company for small businesses of all kinds. We have helped over 3,000 of them integrate social media and content marketing since 2009. It works for most, not so much for others. Not everyone that tries it actually gets it nor embraces it as required. I, like Alder Yarrow and Joe Roberts, for reasons relating to our personal experiences, viscerally and experientially know how it can make a difference for a business’ or personal brand’s results. It’s a fact. Next time we get together, I can share some data from case studies with you. In the world of small businesses, if something does not work, you stop doing it. Its your own pocketbook. The millions of companies that continue to work it know the power first hand. The businesses that dont see the value.

    It is also a fact that in the early days, many of us performed yeoman’s work helping businesses understand this new way to connect with influencers, customers, and prospects online. That was fun but hard passionate work, a phase that has mostly passed. It is more mainstream now. But when folks like you still pose doubting public questions about its basic viability in business marketing, it can get frustrating to the folks that built their own personal or business brands using these once new content opportunities. For me, it’s just funny because you and I created a personally valuable friendship ONLY because I first got to know you through the social web. Your own personal brand, as well as the Wine Enthusiast’s brand, has benefitted from your time investment in content marketing and social media activity. I smile when you still question its value.

    But turning the tables, your biggest critics have never spent entire careers in traditional media and journalism. I have-35 years. They have naive views of the toil, hard work, and dedication folks like you have put into their life long journalism careers. The future of writing for a career is being threatened by the failing financial models of traditional media. It gets tougher to financially value and reward great writers like you for their work. Accomplished journalists become marginalized. That is sad to folks like me that hold a well earned and somewhat sentimental respect for writers with thousands of deadlines, millions of words, crotchety editors, and dumb publishers in their career’s wake.

    I will go out on a limb and venture to say that your critics don’t really appreciate this perspective, and you don’t yet appreciate the real life challenges and successes of people who pioneered and now use these new social media content tools with inarguable marketing success.

    None of this, though, is worthy of name calling.

  2. Dear Adam Japko, thanks for your well-written, thoughtful remarks. I will defend myself by only saying that I, like Socrates, ask questions. And sometimes the people of whom I ask those questions don’t have ready replies. Thats what frustrates them–not me. I have never suggested that social media is of no value to wineries. I’ve said it again and again: Wineries should do social media, to the extent they are able. What I have questioned are some of the more extreme claims that social media is the end-all and be-all of wine marketing. This surely is a legitimate issue.

  3. Let me give the Socratic method a shot… Steve, can you please provide one (more would be better) concrete example of who said “that social media is the end-all and be-all of wine marketing?” What exactly did they say? When did they say it?

  4. My mistake in an earlier email to Steve. I must’ve been channeling old Liquor Barn memories. Of course it’s Steve BURNS from O’Donnell Lane, probably one of the saavyist PR/marketing/branding guys around. Apologies, Steves…

  5. Is that Steve Burns who was formerly with the Wash. Wine Commission?

  6. Yep, the same Steve

  7. Steve, I would really appreciate responses to my questions above…

  8. My daughter will be attending the class and is looking forward to hearing your talk. Sounds like a great couple of days.

  9. Looking forward to tomorrow’s class. A lot of the social media I’ve been putting together for my family’s vineyard has been gut instinct: what seems interesting, engaging, respectful to wine lovers as individuals without thinking of them as a mass of consumers. It’ll be interesting to find out what I’ve been getting wrong/right.

  10. Bob Henry says:


    On social media . . .

    ~~ Bob


    Abstract of Harvard Business Review case study: “Increasing the ROI of Social Media Marketing”


    Slide show of Harvard Business Review article: “Social Media — What Most Companies Don’t Know”


    The full Harvard Business Review article:


    MIT Sloan Review article: “Can You Measure the ROI of Your Social Media Marketing?”


    An excerpt from a summary (titled “Why Social Media ROI Can’t Be Measured” [Link: of The Atlantic article titled “Dark Social: We Have the Whole History of the Web Wrong”:

    “There are still things we know we don’t know, and things we don’t even know we’re missing in terms of social media measurement.

    “For proof, look no further than The Atlantic, which shook the social media realm recently with its expose of “dark social” — the idea that the channels we fret over measuring like Facebook and Twitter represent only a small fraction of the social activity that’s really going on.

    “The article shares evidence that reveals that the vast majority of sharing is still done through channels like email and IM that are nearly impossible to measure (and thus, dark).

    The full Atlantic article:


    ~~ Bob

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